Learning From Developer Celebrity Drama

I used to think that we developers were less vain about things. We don’t watch the soaps, buy the shady drama magazines in the checkout line, or generally care what the celebrities are up to – until recently that is. I realized that we do care what the celebrities are up to, just not the ones in Hollywood.

You see, we are so passionate about how we think the web should work, so that anytime a “fight” happens, we’re there. While these are pretty entertaining and a bit immature and frivolous, I think we can learn much from the fights that tell us where the world of the web is headed.

WordPress vs. Thesis

The recent WordPress versus Thesis Twitter fight has been the nastiest fight on the internet that I can remember. Personally, I’ve always hated the Thesis framework and the way it butchered the ease of use in WordPress. However, personal feelings aside, the fight was about the GPL license. Basically WordPress operates under GPL, which means that even though you’re allowed to sell premium themes, that your themes are also allowed to be edited by someone else and resold. Apparently Thesis doesn’t allow this and it has been a constant fight between the two which finally broke out in a nasty Twitter brawl.

Thousands of designers and developers stopped what they were working on that day to follow the fight. We sure do love our drama don’t we? Fortunately there was actually a lesson to be learned here.

The problem with the internet in recent times is learning how to monetize it. People don’t want to pay for content, design or development. Because they can easily search for anything on the internet, they expect it to be free. Now we can see the start of a new thought process. Creators who once overlooked the abuse of their products and content are now cracking down on the abusers. If this really does get taken to court, it’s going to be interesting to see how they rule on intellectual property.

It’s more important than ever to protect yourself. Fight for something you’ve created, and make sure you’re giving proper due to code you’re borrowing, especially in these days of free, GPL and Creative Commons licenses.

The GAP Logo

The new GAP logo that came out a couple of weeks ago was another topic of mass designer anger. The logo was bland and ugly. Really ugly. Although it was tough for me to understand, why was everyone getting so angry about it? Companies come out with ugly logos all the time.

Then both GAP and designers did something inexcusable – designers began creating “better” logos or a version they thought would’ve been better. GAP took this as a cue to ask for crowdsourcing work. Designers were already creating these awesome logos for free, so why not make use of them right?

This brought back the old fights of No!Spec, which was something I thought we’d mostly gotten over by now. So what did we learn?

Companies make mistakes – but they listen. After the huge backlash of both the ugly logo and the terrible crowdsourcing idea, GAP pulled both and reinstated the old logo. Which made me wonder, did they do this on purpose? Did they purposely announce that they’re using this ugly logo in order to gain publicity? Or did they really expect the community to give something for free? Of course in some ways they were right, as tons of designers jumped at the chance to give GAP a free logo.

So the lesson is – have some dignity. How do your clients feel that you decided to design GAP a nice pretty logo for free, after you’ve charged them $1,000+ for theirs? While redesigning an ugly piece for fun is ok, and really how we learn, it’s not ok to actually put it out there for the company to take and use for free.

Elliot Jay Stock’s Should Designers Be Able To Code?

This is an old argument, but still a fight today. Should designers be able to code?

Back when I first got into the web 10+ years ago, it was common to be a jack of all trades. At one time I took care of designing, coding, flash, marketing, SEO and even scripting.

While this can still be done today, I don’t think it should. There’s simply too many skills that update too quickly for one person to really be a master of all of them. While I certainly know how to do more than just front-end development, I still focus on it to make sure I’m the best there is at it. That doesn’t mean I don’t learn anything else – as a matter of fact I’m learning PHP, Objective-C and advanced jQuery right now. But I’ll probably never be as good in those things as I am in CSS/HTML, unless I decide to drop them and focus on something else.

So should designers be able to code? Technically yes, but no. They should know basic CSS/HTML. They should know what can and can’t be done or what should and shouldn’t be done. But they don’t need to know how to integrate in WordPress, advanced CSS selectors, etc etc.

Flash vs. HTML5

While this argument was really brought to light thanks to Apple and Adobe, it’s been going on for awhile. I’ve always hated Flash simply because it’s a pain to update, it’s usability is terrible and it’s unaccessible from devices that don’t support it. Oh yeah and it also runs terribly.

However, I’ve also heard that HTML5’s canvas is too much of a pain to seriously use. You either have to use some sort of plugin in Adobe to get a visual interface, or you have to rely on coding it from scratch. The performance of advanced canvas programs is also slower than Flash..yes it’s slower.

But it’s improving quickly. It’s being predicted that Flash is going to die a slow painful death, but it’s still going to be around for awhile. The lesson here is obvious – Flash and ActionScript developers should really start learning how to use canvas and other mediums for their animation now, before canvas becomes too widely used and they’re out of work.

Your Thoughts

What do you think we could learn about the future of the internet from these fights? Have you encountered any other arguments?